Review: Queer literature gives teens new perspectives

Cassie Barnes, Online Editor

From Virginia Woolf and Oscar Wilde to modern retellings of classical stories, queer literature has gained momentum in the literary scene. Popularized through TikTok and Tumblr, queer novels are making their way into the hearts of many teens with romance, slice-of-life action and the occasional comedy.


“Felix Ever After” by Kacen Callender

Exploring identity during adolescence has been a heavy subject in modern coming-of-age books. “Felix Ever After” centers around Felix Love, a Black transgender boy who balances the expectations at a prestigious high school while having just been outed by an anonymous classmate, all while dealing with the fact that he hasn’t really been in love yet.

“It does a really good job of talking about different types of representation,” sophomore Connor Richmond said. “There were a lot of real things that a trans person would have to deal with in the book. The book itself is written by a non binary person, so they were able to put a lot of their own experiences in it.”

Although the story focuses a lot on the queer aspect of Felix’s identity, another major trait is his identity as a Black teen. Many queer stories, like “Call Me By Your Name” and “Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda,” feature only white queer main characters, leaving queer people of color without realistic representation.

“I feel like as a whole, [queer books] are usually just very white,” junior Sanjhi Kesarwani said. “I definitely think there should be more representation [of people of color] to make the entire community a whole.”


“The Song of Achilles” by Madeline Miller

A tragic tale between two Greeks as they go through the trials of bravery, destiny and love, “The Song of Achilles” has been regarded as one of the most popular and influential queer stories. Based on the Homeric epic poem, “The Iliad,” “The Song of Achilles” follows Patroclus and his tragic relationship with Achilles. It explores what many consider a historical queer relationship that is often washed into just being close friends. 

“It’s just a really beautifully written book, but also super sad,” freshman Madelyn Fender said. “It had a lot of detail, everything was described nicely and it was a little more mature than books I’d read before.” 

One of the reasons the book gained popularity is because of its historical retelling of Greek mythology. According to her website, Miller  studied Greek mythology and language in her college education. She tried to write “The Song of Achilles” as close in interpretation to “The Iliad” as possible through researching the descriptions of different scenes from the epic poem. Although “The Iliad” mostly takes place during the final years of the Trojan War, Miller descriptively adds all of the backstory necessary to analyze the relationship between Patroclus and Achilles. 

“I like the Greek mythology standpoint in it, and there is also a lot of retelling of ‘The Iliad’ in general,” Fender said. “Since it’s set in ancient Greece, it’s kind of different from other [queer] books, but I think the relationship was depicted well. It felt really comfortable, and it was really nice to read that type of relationship.”

However, some are not fans of the book’s representation of a queer historical relationship. Many critics were surprised and pushed away from the romantic chemistry shared between the two mythological figures because of their genders. Others saw the story as a cliché ”bury your gays” trope, or killing off the queer characters to advance the plotline, because both main characters face extremely tragic deaths.

“It was a little slow sometimes,” Fender said. “At one point I asked myself if I really wanted to finish it because it was so slow, but once it really got going, I really enjoyed it, and it made me cry for almost four hours when I finished.”


“Red, White & Royal Blue” by Casey McQuiston

Following a classic enemies-to-lovers arc, McQuiston’s “Red, White & Royal Blue” is a popular romance story many teens are drawn to. Riddled with sarcasm, pop culture references and intense emotions, the book features Alex Claremont-Diaz, the First Son of the United States. Suddenly, Alex realizes his crush on the royal Prince of England, Henry Fox-Mountchristen-Windsor. Unfortunately, politics just may not be on his side.

Overall, the book represents the LGBTQ+ community’s fear of coming out. With such a large platform and high reputation to maintain, Alex has a hard time being able to naturally tell his loved ones and his country that his love interest is not his girl best friend,  but is instead a boy.

“When I read novels with mainly straight characters, there’s not that fear of coming out to people or having to come out,” Kesarwani said. “The book started off with a fear of being in a relationship, especially because they held such powerful positions in the world. It was nice to see that perspective through the eyes of other people.”

Although the book’s pace may be daunting, as many GoodReads reviewers feel the relationship went from hatred to romance too quickly, its simplicity is fun for many readers. The thematic elements of secrecy and cherishing the small moments in life opens readers’ eyes to see a new type of relationship in the political sphere, one that is forced into the spotlight but does not dwindle.

“People enjoy reading books about themselves, so I feel like [queer literature] gives perspective,” Kesarwani said. “These books show [being queer] is normal. It’s good to know that there’s a community out there.”